April 22, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After finishing a close second in three relays last season in Philadelphia, Head Coach J.J. Clark leads the sixth-ranked University of Tennessee women back to Franklin Field in 2009, trying to claim some coveted Championship of America "relay wheels" at the 115th Penn Relays.
Action begins Thursday and runs through Saturday afternoon at the nation's largest track & field meet. ESPN2 will televise live during a two-hour window from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, when Olympic-caliber athletes from 13 different countries take part in the USA vs. The World competition.
In 2008, the Lady Volunteers carded runner-up showings in the distance medley (DMR), 4x1500m and 4x800m relays on successive days. The close calls left the Big Orange with an empty feeling as they departed Philly a year ago. They return in '09 with those finishes in the backs of their minds and with goals of better outcomes this time around.
"Since I've been here (at Tennessee), we've been in the hunt, either winning or knocking on the door, and I want to continue that," Clark said. "Last year was a tough year. We performed well and ran fast, but we were second in three relays. We're going to go back there this year and hopefully try to turn the tables. "It would be nice for our seniors, Sarah (Bowman), Rolanda (Bell) and Kimarra (McDonald), to go out with a bang in the relays. I just want us to execute extremely well and do our absolute best. We want to go there with the expectation of trying to win and run accordingly."
The Lady Vols, no doubt, will enter as the favorite in the DMR, an event they won in 1983, 2004 and 2007 at the Penn Relays. The quartet of junior Phoebe Wright, sophomore Brittany Jones, freshman Chanelle Price and Bowman set a world record during the indoor campaign. Their effort of 10:50.98 at the NCAA Indoor Championships propelled them to UT's second-straight and third overall DMR national title. They also ran a time worthy of American record status earlier in the season at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational, covering the distance in 10:56.40. They have not yet run a DMR outdoors in 2009.
"Obviously, we have a good team," Clark said. "We're just looking forward to them performing and doing what they do well, which is running fast. People will probably come out to watch. I remember when I was younger, we used to go watch these events, and the DMR would be the focal point.
"It is the only Championship of America contested on Thursday, so it is something that is very exciting. I just want our team to keep their poise and maintain their focus on what we're here to do, which is win the race. If you win the race, you're going to run fast and everything will take care of itself."
In addition to the DMR, Clark will have entries expected to be in the hunt in the 4x800m and 4x1500m relays. Tennessee owns five 4x8 titles, triumphing from 1981 to 1984 and again in 2004. The Lady Vols have been the bridesmaids the past three seasons and would like to upgrade in 2009. Clark will offer up Bowman (2:04.81), Wright (2:04.92) and Price (2:05.54), three of the nation's fastest at 800 meters, on Saturday. The fourth component likely would be either McDonald (2:10.46) or sophomore Brittany Sheffey (2:08.85 indoors last season), who both ran on last year's runner-up unit with Bowman and Wright. UT produced a victorious 8:29.99 readout at the 2009 Pepsi Florida Relays in the outdoor opener with Bell handling the pop-off leg.
Tennessee's best Penn Relays efforts in the 4x1500m relay were runner-up showings in 2008 and 1989. Clark would like to change that in 2009. His likely lineup on Friday will include Bowman (4:16.47), who won the NCAA mile in a meet record 4:29.72, as well as Wright (4:24.28), Bell (4:24.84) and junior Jackie Areson (4:27.64). With Price (4:30.86) running instead of Areson, the quartet clocked an easy 17:51.71 output to win unchallenged at the Sea Ray Relays two weekends ago.
Tennessee also is slated to send out a 4x100m tandem on Friday, with senior Celriece Law, freshman Ashley Harris, freshman Ellen Wortham and junior Lynne Layne coming off a 45.55 regional-qualifying effort at last weekend's Volunteer Track Classic.
Individual events include the 400m hurdles (Wortham, senior Amanda Alexander), high jump (Wortham), long jump (Layne, Law) and 5000m (senior Katie Van Horn, Areson) on Thursday, and the100m dash prelims (Layne) and 100m hurdles prelims (Law) on Friday.
"I grew up with the Penn Relays, and it is a really fun meet," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "It's one of the biggest meets in the world, as far as the crowds and fan base go, and it is televised around the world. It gives us a great opportunity to run well and have some good recruiting."
While Clark and sprint coach Pauline Davis Thompson have their groups in Philly, throws coach John Frazier will be on the West Coast with his throws corps. On Thursday, national leader sophomore Annie Alexander and freshman Akeela Bravo will compete against an elite field of throwers in the Pumping Iron Discus Classic at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. On Friday and Saturday, they will join with sophomore Holly Kane and freshmen Laquoya Kelly and Brittany Napoli as participants in the UCSD Triton Invitational in LaJolla. The back-to-back meets produced several career-best efforts a year ago, and the goal is the same again in 2009.
"Last year, we had a lot of success out there with our throws group," Clark said. "We're looking for the same type of success this time around and wanting to continue the development and technical improvement of Annie, Laquoya and the rest of the crew. This is a good opportunity that John Frazier wanted to take advantage of, and he knows what he is doing. I expect they'll have a very productive trip out West."
Senior pole vaulter Alicia Essex also will be in action this weekend. She is heading to Bowling Green, Ky., to compete in the Western Kentucky University Invitational on Saturday.
|THURSDAY, APRIL 23 AT PENN RELAYS|
|(3) Coll. 400mH (Regional: 1:00.82) 10:00 a.m.||Ellen Wortham||Amanda Alexander|
|(265) Coll. High Jump (Regional: 5-8.75/1.75m) 10:00 a.m.||Ellen Wortham|
|(12) 4x100m Relay Prelims (Regional: 45.70) 1:00 p.m.||Celriece Law/Ashley Harris/Ellen Wortham/Lynne Layne|
|(283) Coll. Long Jump (Regional: 19-8.25/6.00m) 4:00 p.m.||Lynne Layne||Celriece Law|
|(60) Distance Medley Relay Champ. (Not An NCAA Event) 5:25 p.m.||Phoebe Wright/Brittany Jones or Kimarra McDonald/Chanelle Price/Sarah Bowman|
|(76) Coll. 5000m (Regional: 16:52.00) 8:30 p.m.||Katie Van Horn||Jackie Areson|
|THURSDAY, APRIL 23 AT PUMPING IRON DISCUS CLASSIC|
|Discus (Regional: 155-2/47.30m) 5 p.m.||Annie Alexander||Akeela Bravo|
|FRIDAY, APRIL 24 AT PENN RELAYS|
|(116) 4x100m Relay Champ. (Regional: 45.70) 1:10 p.m.||Celriece Law/Ashley Harris/Ellen Wortham/Lynne Layne|
|(124) 4x1500m Relay Champ. (Not An NCAA Event) 1:30 p.m.||Chanelle Price/Rolanda Bell/Phoebe Wright/Sarah Bowman|
|(148) 100m Prelims (Regional: 11.75) 3:35 p.m.||Lynne Layne|
|(137) 100mH Prelims (Regional: 13.92) 3:40 p.m.||Celriece Law|
|FRIDAY, APRIL 24 AT UCSD TRITON INV.|
|Inv. Hammer (Auto: 5,500; Prov: 5,050) 1 p.m.||Akeela Bravo||Laquoya Kelly||Holly Kane|
|Inv. Discus (Regional: 155-2/47.30m) 5 p.m.||Annie Alexander|
|Open Discus (Regional: 155-2/47.30m) 6:30 p.m.||Akeela Bravo|
|SATURDAY, APRIL 25 AT PENN RELAYS|
|(231) 4x800m Relay Champ. (Not An NCAA Event) 2:00 p.m.||Sarah Bowman/Kimarra McDonald or Brittany Sheffey/Chanelle Price/Phoebe Wright|
|SATURDAY, APRIL 25 AT UCSD TRITON INV.|
|Javelin (Regional: 142-6/43.45m) 12:30 p.m.||Holly Kane||Brittany Napoli||Inv. Shot Put (Regional: 46-11/14.30m) 6:00 p.m.||Annie Alexander|
|Open Shot Put (Regional: 46-11/14.30m) 7:30 p.m.||Laquoya Kelly||Akeela Bravo|
|SATURDAY, APRIL 25 AT WKU INV.|
|Pole Vault (Regional: 12-7.50/3.85m) TBA||Alicia Essex|
* All Times Eastern
# - NCAA Regional Qualifier, * - NCAA Automatic Qualifier, + - NCAA Provisional Qualifier, ! - Personal Record (Outdoors), dnf - Did Not Finish, dnq - Did Not Qualify, dnr - Did Not Run, dns - Did Not Start, dq - Disqualified, f - Facility Record, fs - False Start, h - Hand Times, nm - No Mark, p - Prelims, s - School Record (Outdoors).